Matt Cutts Provides Support For Banned Site at HackerNews

Oct 12, 2011 • 8:39 am | comments (4) by | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

HackerNews LogoMany of us know, Google's Matt Cutts latest online hangout is HackerNews, oh, and yes, Google +. I often see Matt Cutts, the head of the Google webspam team, responding to Google complaints at HackerNews and I don't always point them out.

Yesterday, an affiliate driven site posted a complaint at HackerNews, which Matt responded to several times. The responses aren't all that earth shattering to most SEOs, but Matt responding so often is a bit shocking.

Here is a screen shot of the traffic loss specific from Google over time:

Google Ban Traffic Drop

In any event, I figured I quote his responses here, just so many some can learn something from them.

You have an autogenerated web site that consists of practically nothing other than affiliate links to Amazon. You can make an infinite number of autogenerated pages on your site, e.g.

and each autogenerated page consists of literally hundreds of affiliate links stuffed with keywords for unrelated products.

When Google's webspam team takes action on websites in our websearch index, we can pass that information on to the ads group so they can check for violations. But it's a one-way street: we can send the ads team signals or information about spammers or other violations of our quality guidelines, but the ads team doesn't send information over to the quality/webspam team.

I'm not saying that the issues aren't fixable. But when the site came up for a review, we saw things that violate our quality guidelines: autogenerated pages with hundreds of affiliate links that consist of lots of keywords, and the links/keywords are duplicate content. If he fixes the issues by e.g. blocking out the autogenerated pages, then I expect his homepage will be found in Google. The autogenerated pages are also less useful to someone landing on a page because the pages quickly get stale: prices change, things go in/out of stock, etc.

This is somewhat new, experimentin with 1:1 support over email?

We've also been experimenting with 1:1 support over email, by way of a link in our webmaster console. The tension there is finding a solution that scales. We do try to keep an eye on tweets, blog posts, Google+, Hacker News, and similar places around the web, but that's also hard to scale.

I wouldn't be philosophically opposed to a pay-for-support system if it were done well, but it would be a tricky thing to get right. Normally when we consider it, we end up saying things like "Why don't we just try to make it so that people don't need that option?"

The site was flagged both algorithmically and also escalated to a member of the manual webspam team.

The basic philosophy is to do as much as we can algorithmically, but there will always be a residual of hard cases that computers might not do as well at (e.g. spotting hacked sites and identifying the parts of a site that have been hacked). That's where the manual webspam team really adds a lot of value.

In addition to things like removing sites, the data from the manual webspam team is also used to train the next generations of our algorithms. For example, the hacked site data that our manual team produced not only helped webmasters directly, we also used that data to produce an automatic hacked site detector.

If you're interested, I made a video about the interaction between algorithmic and manual spamfighting here:

Those are some select quotes.

Like I said, the one on one support does seem new. Although, I am sure on occasion Google has offered it on a site by site basis.

Forum discussion at HackerNews.

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